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Published:  June 15, 2020

By:  Willie Barney, Co-Publisher Revive Omaha

Beyond the Flames:  Why I Believe 2020 is a Turning Point

Where Do We Go From Here?  Transformation 2025

Part II:  Moving to Solutions

Omaha might not be in flames now, but we have a playbook.  George Fraser has called Omaha the Montgomery of the economic rights movement.  Pastor Freddie Haynes calls it the Selma of the next great movement.  They and others believe there are answers in Omaha.

On a personal level, after years of reading, researching and studying solutions, we embarked nearly fifteen years ago on a journey to move the dial and change the trajectory of our community.  Hundreds of organizations and thousands of residents, both youth and adults, have participated.  Both black and white.  Both civilian and police.   North, South, East and West.

I’m hopeful because through collaboration, we have made measurable progress in 8 of 10 key areas.

Through the collective efforts of hundreds of organizations and thousands of residents:

  • Gun violence was decreased by 74%
  • African-American high school graduation rates increased from 64% to 81%.
  • The percentage of African-Americans with a bachelor’s degree increased from 16% to 22%.
  • African-American unemployment was reduced from nearly 21% to 7.5%.
  • Employment for youth increased from 30 summer jobs to over 1,000.
  • The African-American poverty rate was reduced from 33% to 24%.
  • A new grocery store was built, some neighborhood stores were converted and fresh fruit and vegetables were brought to the community.
  • The Affordable HealthCare Act reduced the percentage of uninsured and did not penalize for pre-existing conditions.
  • Major revitalization efforts were launched, securing hundreds of millions of dollars in public/private investments.
  • A new wave of innovative black entrepreneurs is emerging.

One of the most significant areas of progress is the work we’ve done collectively to build stronger partnerships between police and community and begin addressing justice issues.  Body cameras, diversity training, open communication, police diversity and reductions of use of force have resulted from collaboration.  In Omaha, a city of 460,000, there has been one officer involved shooting in the past eighteen months.  Cities across the nation are looking to replicate the Omaha 360, a nationally recognized model.

To be sure, we never thought the work was done.  We know significant gaps still exist. Yet, we also know that it is possible to move the dial.

In 2014, partly fueled by the flames of Ferguson, we made a proposal to accelerate the progress of African-Americans and North Omaha and identified the level of investment it would require. The plan became known as Transformation 2025 Initiative.  It was based on the input of over 8,000 people, implementation of successful projects and aligned with the findings of the Kerner Report and Freedom Agenda.

We secured some initial investments.  We aligned efforts.  We built effective collaborations.  We pushed for large scale investments with specific goals, strategies, initiatives, programs and policies identified.

The areas where we secured funds we have been able to produce tangible, measurable results.  But when it came to the larger proposals, we were told there are no additional funds.

“Where would we ever find that level of funding?”

Omaha can find the funds when it becomes a priority.   Hundreds of millions of dollars for downtown redevelopment.  $140 million for the TD Ameritrade baseball stadium. Hundreds of millions for a new Buffett Cancer Center.  $200 million just approved by citizens to improve streets and the list goes on.  To be clear, these are all great investments for the City of Omaha.  I stand in full support.  They are all needed and benefit the city and region.  However, these investments prove the point: Omaha and other cities can move the dial and we can find the resources to do what we prioritize.

As described by Obama Foundation officials who visited our community, “Omaha is a get it done city.”

We are now faced with the same decision that the nation and city confronted in 1968.

Invest in people or invest in prisons?   Invest in residents or invest in buildings.  Invest in prevention or invest in penalties.  Invest in proactive solutions or civil unrest.

In 2020, what decision will we make?  This is our turning point.

We know how to put out the fire.  I believe that collectively, with the fires raging and in the midst of a pandemic, we will make the right decision.  In the words of Dr. King, “We will finally make justice a reality for all of God’s children.”

As African-Americans, we must unite and do our part.  Support black businesses and businesses in North Omaha.  Vote.  Create generational wealth. Continue reinforcing the importance of education.  Take care of our health.  Work together to address justice and reform.  Engage with the community to address race relations and inequities.  Use all of our gifts and assets.  Partner with allies.

Omaha.  America.  You must do your part.  Listen.  Allow African-Americans and residents from neighborhoods most impacted to lead. Partner and support.  Be an ally.  Implement new policies to reform the justice system.  It is time to invest at the scale of the problem.

Invest in entrepreneurship and access to credit and capital.  Invest in employment, diversity and higher wages.  Invest in safe, affordable housing and mixed income neighborhoods.  Invest in education and high performing school models.  Invest in prevention, intervention, community policing and reentry programs.  Invest to make healthcare accessible and affordable for all.

We can all win.  Let’s design a society and democracy that works for all of its citizens.  The rest of the world is watching.  Will this grand experiment finally and fully become what it can be?  A place where all citizens are spiritually, economically and socially thriving, healthy and prosperous.

In Omaha, the early indications from all sectors is that it will be different this time.  We have the will and the appetite to make this the turning point.  We can put the flames out for good this time.

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Two additional thoughts.  There are other plans that have been developed and numerous individuals and groups who are working diligently on their initiatives, projects, programs and policies.  Our goal is to create a combined plan that we can all work on together and do our part in a collaborative way.

In addition, many individuals, organizations, foundations, businesses and ministries have invested tremendous amounts of time, talent and treasure into various initiatives generating measurable outcomes.  We should pause and recognize these committed partners.  Now, together, we will focus more intensely on wealth, health and ownership.

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Community Features

Revive Center welcomes Chef Jamil to 24th and Lake

The Revive Center is excited to welcome Chef Jamil of House of Bah back to 24th and Lake this weekend. Make a Reservation Now!

Chef Jamil and his now-famous Jerk Chicken were a huge hit during Native Omaha Days.  Since that time, he has won first place a the PitchBlack competition hosted by the Midlands African Chamber and received overwhelming support at the recent Afro Fest held at Aksarben.

“This has been an unbelievable time for me, my family and all of our partners,” said Jamil.

“In some ways, I tried to leave the kitchen, but it keeps calling me back.  It has been passed down through the generations of my family.”

One of Chef Jamil’s goals is to introduce African food and culture in new ways.  Through his non-profit, Eat N’ Talk Africa, he’s doing exactly that.  The goal is in his words is “to shed light on African Culinary Heritage and offer forums for intercultural exchange.”

This summer he partnered for the first time with the Empowerment Network’s Step-Up Omaha program to offer hands on culinary training to a cohort of 14 and 15 year olds.  The youth advanced to preparing and cooking their own meals and worked with the entrepreneurship and technology cohorts to design and implement the Step-Up Cafe.

“The food is just one part of the vision,” he said.  “I want the food to help create conversation, build bridges across different races and nationalities and create knowledge and understanding about Africa.  It’s bigger than the food.”

Though his vision is bigger than the food, the food is downright excellent.  Jamil brings incredibly delicious food with exquisite African flavor.  Customers have given rave reviews.  The presentation is second to none.

“One of the primary goals for the Revive Center is to provide a platform for chefs and cooks to introduce new foods options to the community and specifically 24th and Lake,” said Yolanda Barney, co-owner of the Revive Center.

“Not only is Chef Jamil bringing fresh new dishes with an African flavor, he’s working with us to accomplish another goal of presenting more fine dining opportunities in North Omaha.”

Chef Jamil will present the Casual/Fine Dining Experience during a Pop Up at the Revive Center on Friday and Saturday. Space is limited. Its best to make a reservation or order in advance for these nights.

Reservations can be made here.   Order in Advance or for Take out here.  Chef Jamil will present a three-course meal including Jerk Chicken, Cornmeal Crusted Salmon, Vegan dishes, appetizers and desserts.

On Sunday, Chef Jamil will be the featured Chef at the Revive Center’s popular Sunday Gospel Lunch between noon and 3 pm. Open seating is available as well as curbside and takeout.

In addition to these special events and popups, The Revive Center is open every week Tuesday – Saturday for lunch 11:30-2 pm.  Champions Cafe features fried and grilled chicken sandwiches and strips, original gourmet burgers and specialty salads by Darnell Relford.  Thursday – Saturday during lunch Wes Zollicoffer of Feeding Royals features shrimp and grits, rasta pasta, croquettes, and other pasta and seafood dishes.  Open seating is available as well as take out and curbside.

For more information, please call 402-490-1542.

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Community Features

Ted Lampkin: Rising to Meet the Challenge

Sponsored Content:
Charles Drew Health Center

Growing up down the street from Charles Drew Health Center, Inc., it was no question for Ted Lampkin to give back to the community that helped raise him.

“I’m passionate about public health because I am a product of public health services. Coming up, my family and I used the services at Charles Drew.”

As the Associate Director of Behavioral Health Services, Ted has been on the front-line teaching and training team members in new approaches to behavioral health. It’s no surprise that when COVID-19 struck, Ted was front and center.

“My role was to help transition the Behavioral Health department from doing face-to-face therapy to telehealth therapy.”

While COVID-19 began to escalate, increasing evidence highlighted racial and ethnic minority groups are being disproportionately affected by COVID-19.

“We made it easy for the patients, providing traditional face-to-face, telehealth, and when needed telephonic sessions. A lot of patients had anxiety about COVID-19 and being in the middle of a pandemic, in addition to their other stressers.”

“The benefit of telehealth is we can continue to provide quality service during a pandemic. You take out the barriers to care with telehealth.”

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Community Features

Brenda Avant: Providing Quality Healthcare in the Midst of COVID-19

Sponsored Content:
Charles Drew Health Center

As a North Omaha native, Family Nurse Practitioner, Brenda Avant, understands educating her patients about their healthcare choices is a foundational principle to accessing safe and quality healthcare.

When the pandemic shut down Omaha metro schools, Brenda and the team members at Charles Drew Health Center, Inc. School-based Health Centers had to switch gears. While still providing in-person care, the SBHC Medical providers began utilizing telehealth to remain in contact with their patients.

“The telehealth program at Charles Drew really grew at that time. As Medical providers, we were able to continue serving our student patients through telehealth. The parents really enjoyed it because they felt even through a pandemic their child’s provider is still in tune with their needs.”

As the pandemic surged, the healthcare inequalities within the American health system began to come to the foreground. “It made me proud to see that Charles Drew was a front runner in COVID-19. The community was looking to us to help guide them through.”

“Charles Drew made it very easy for the population we serve to continue receiving care. We may be small, but we are mighty.”

 

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